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 PropTech Today: Selling my flat - even tech can’t help a quiet market

That’s it. I’ve given up. The lull has continued and it’s becoming quite a bore. 

The price drop hasn’t worked. The revamped photos haven’t helped. My flat remains empty and it seems that no amount of technological innovation can help me shift this quality, albeit lived in, home. 

I know enough about this industry to know that I shouldn’t have to be bending over a barrel to sell this place. 


This is partly down to my gut instinct. I truly believe the property to be a desirable one, reasonably priced, but it’s also based on the facts that are plain to see - people are looking at the property on Rightmove and plenty are clicking-through, but the viewings just aren’t coming in. Does this mean it is overpriced? I really don’t think so.  Does this mean the market just isn’t happening right now? It’s possible. 

Whatever the cause, we just can’t get a bite at the moment. What’s more, my gut and experience is telling me that the flat is worth more than we would be getting even if there were offers coming in. 

One positive takeaway from all this is that technology has given me the insight to be able to come to this conclusion. I remember my ‘power hours’ with Foxtons where we would phone every vendor and landlord on the books to drive down price reductions ‘because the market has softened’ or ‘because the feedback is saying it is overpriced’. Whether or not I believed those statements, it did the job and sold or let the properties we had. 

But those people I was driving down were being forced to believe what I was telling them. As their agent, they relied totally on my judgement and had to trust that I was right. Without any further proof, they would drop the price and hope for a bite. 

Thanks to technology, I, the home seller, can see the truth for myself. I don’t need anyone to tell me it’s a quiet market, it’s obvious from the numbers in front of me, and numbers don’t lie quite as often as I might have, perhaps, possibly, but definitely didn’t used to. 

I didn’t lie, just to be clear. I was simply...enthusiastic about selling someone’s house if they needed it to sell. The fact is there is often only one thing that stops a place from selling or letting; the price.

Up until now, I’ve been coy as to which hybrid agent I’ve used and which high street agent I’ve used, but now I can be more transparent. 

After completing my stealth analysis, I felt Emoov were the ones to go with. It was a close-run thing, but the combination of smooth efficiency before the valuation and their attitude during and after, pretty much made the decision for me. 

To date, they haven’t done anything wrong and the high street agent, River Homes, I then went on to try have equally been good. 

If only each could have the other: the smooth efficiencies of seamless hybrid systems with the hands-on approach to a domestic market and the legacy of the community that it serves, as demonstrated by the high street.

I appreciate that-that’s exactly what most of the online hybrids are trying to achieve, but my experience here tells me none of them have quite done it yet. Clearly the theory is much easier said than done.

But still, there is only one vital truth here; the flat hasn’t sold and I can’t afford to wait around. I need to get it back on the rental market, generating some income and then maybe think again about selling later down the road.  

The good thing here is, and I have clarified this with Emoov, I can remove my flat from the market and very easily put it back on whenever I choose. 

I have 12 months, total, of marketing activity to play with and the Emoov system works a bit like competitive chess - the moment I say stop, the time stops. When I say go, it restarts. 

I’m not being given 12 calendar months of marketing, but rather a year’s worth of tangible, on-the-market time, broken up in any way I want. This seriously helps me out and is a feature I certainly wasn’t aware of. Might it be worth shouting a bit more about this in future advertising, Russell?

Turning to rental/lettings tech solutions 

Am I really going to drag you all through this again? Too right I am. But sod the sales market, we do, after all, live in Generation Rent.   

If nobody wants my darling flat, it’s going back on the rental market. This is the perfect excuse for me to try the same exercise again just from a different angle. 

I have now started the process of identifying the best online rental solutions and the best local high street lettings agents. This time, I’m expecting the whole process to be a lot quicker. 

I know this market well, I was a lettings manager at Foxtons for nearly three years. I am aware of how fast the lettings market can move. Therefore, the solutions I choose will have to be super-efficient if they hope to work alongside the more established, traditional providers. 

In all of my years as a landlord, I have always used Foxtons, never anyone else. I’m loyal. Like a dog. So I’m going to use them this time, too. But how will they compete against the new guys? 

Foxtons already know my property, they even have the photos already from last time. They have the entire rental history and they have a copy of the keys. 

They can be up and running in one phone call. 

With Mrs. D being clear that we have to get it on the market ASAFP (F is for Feasibly), I have called them already and they’re on the case as we speak with my flat alive, once again, on the rental market. 

My comfort blanket of this existing relationship is warming me once again. 

But what about ‘newer’ and cheaper, smarter online solutions I could use. The big drawback of tradition is obviously the expense. 

I know paying fees upfront is going to ruin us for at least six weeks. It is shocking on a cash flow perspective but has traditionally been seen as just the way it is done. 

With limited time, I just went with the three online solutions I was most curious about trying - essentially solutions for rentals. 

The three names are Upad, Purplebricks, and OpenRent. Before anyone says anything, I know there are many, many, many other solutions to try, just as there were when I did this for sales (I wish I had tried Nested, for example, which guarantees to sell in 90 days, or Go-offmarket.com who deal with off-market products) but sadly I just didn’t have time to test everybody doing cool and interesting stuff to help innovate the market. 

Equally here, faced with a vacant flat, we need to go straight to the best of the available solutions, no messing. 

In this case, they’re those I believe have enough power to get the job done quickly. Ultimately, research has shown that a void period is the second most costly aspect of letting a property after taxation.  

My rental progress so far

Let me start with the fact that I instructed two of them, Upad and Openrent. Purplebricks just didn’t make sense for me with their lettings offering. 

It wasn’t clear what the proposition was and it just didn’t feel right, felt almost like lettings wasn’t really an established product line. 

Upad and OpenRent seemed to have streamlined systems and processes in place. I could self-serve completely (I was doing it at 11.30pm, incidentally) and it was an efficient use of my time. 

OpenRent is cheaper (it might be the cheapest of them all?) but really feels like a tech platform, whereas Upad feels much more like a traditional agency and claims to be ⅓ the cost of a high street agent. It certainly seems to be on initial analysis. 

I only hope I have given them enough time to compete. Initial indications certainly show that their processes would be more efficient than most high street agents - especially given the fact that I don’t need a valuation here - but it all comes down to the marketing now. 

Have they got enough time to help Mrs D. and I get this flat shifted quickly and avoid any unwanted stress, pressure or void periods? 

Only time will tell. 

*James Dearsley is a leading PropTech influencer and commentator. You can follow him on Twitter here.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    Great piece and been fun to follow and truly highlights how subdued the London sales market really is right now. As for the portal viewing stats- if only you could know how many of those views were from other agents!? Anyway, very intrigued to see you know play ball in our wheelhouse (lettings) just gutted your property wasn’t further east!

    James Dearsley

    Thanks Kristjan, was interesting experience certainly. Just not the right time for sales and hence the move

  • Simon Bradbury

    Just fascinating stuff - thanks for the updates.
    In my view - it really IS the price that's prevented this sale... but what do I know?
    Thanks again James and good luck.

    James Dearsley

    Thanks Simon, assuming you followed the other articles on this journey you will have seen a recent (and rather expensive process of) extending the lease made a price drop, in a quiet market, hard to take.

    The previous price drop really didn't prompt a huge amount so another 5% decrease was probably not enough either. Equally we love the flat so a hold was decided

  • charlotte Jeffrey- campbell

    Really interesting - I often make similar reference in my training courses. I definitely never lied in my agency days but lacked knowledge and information so couldn’t give as informed information as tech now offers!

    James Dearsley

    Interesting point Charlotte. Previously, it was a strategy to really drive prices down for vendors whose property's were not moving. It worked but it took co-ordination and focus for us as an agency to do this.

    Nowadays, as I am suggesting here it isn't just about an agent telling you what to do (which takes a degree of trust obviously - then and now) but you can work it out yourself but just working with the systems.

  • Gavin Brazg

    Great series James and vey well written may I say. Can't help but think River Homes was an interesting choice of HSEA.... Given who has the greatest potential to get maximum buyers through your door (based on stock suitability and sale success rates), I would have thought Whitman & Co would have been your strategic choice. Anyway, wish you well for the next attempt.

    James Dearsley

    Thank you Gavin, River Homes are on the road of the property and have acted very well in the last few years when renting. Doing the basics brilliantly i.e. always calling when the tenancy was up for renewal, willing to go around when asked to value knowing that it may not go on the market - essentially doing everything that an agent should be doing and doing it well.

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    Interesting read - thanks for this.

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    James I am following you from Italy. I find your articles very interesting and informative. Thanks!


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